Alligator Blood (inside) beating Catalyst in the C.S. Hayes Stakes (Image: Racing Photos)
Despite conceding there are some question marks hanging over Alligator Blood heading into Saturday's Australian Guineas at Flemington, trainer David Vandyke suspects what sort of performance his three-year-old will give.
"He's the complete horse. He can pretty much do anything," Vandyke said at Flemington on Tuesday morning.
Alligator Blood has won nine of his 10 starts yet has had a long and, at times, troubled campaign, and on Saturday he goes to a distance where he suffered his one and only defeat when nosed out by Super Seth in last spring's Caulfield Guineas.
"Barriers will play a big part in how he goes, and we are a little bit nervous at the mile at Flemington," Vandyke said. "His only defeat - obviously he had excuses - but his only defeat has been stepping out to the mile.
"But he's bounced back well off the C.S. Hayes. He's been up a while, but I think he's still peaking.
"It's a bit of a juggling act because we don't want to work him too hard. He took a few days to get over that run, and I guess we're going to find out on Saturday how much the C.S. Hayes took out of him.
"We can get all the positive signs around the stable and the track but until he gets out there on Saturday, we're not really going to know how much last start took out of him.
"It's just a matter of trying to keep him up. He's had a bit of a long preparation.
"I wouldn't say he's come forward, but I think he's going to run as well as he did in the C.S. Hayes."
Vandyke admitted he too took a few days to recover from the nail-biting clash with Catalyst in the lead-up to the Guineas and in fact, rated it as his greatest moment of his career.
"I've won Group 1s but that was my career highlight," he said. "Especially as I was aware of how quick they were going from the 800 and I saw Catalyst looking to be travelling better approaching the 300 and at that point, I was just hoping to hang on for second.
"But to see him fight back like that - especially at Flemington as it's such a fantastic course.
"It was a surprise because we've never seen him get into a dogfight and to see him get into a dogfight and win was a great thrill. Also, the fact that he led as well as he'd never done that previously and to lead at Flemington where he's never raced before.
"Everything this week has been positive. He's been tradesman-like in his work. I'm happy enough with him going forward and I think he can put in another good performance.
"A better barrier would be a good thing to have going into Saturday but that's out of our hands. There's not much we need to do. Obviously, Ryan (Maloney) and I will look at the race when the field is out.
"It's a fantastic field. Catalyst, Alabama Express even Chenier was a great run.
"He's going to have to be right up to the mark to figure in the finish on Saturday and if he draws a good alley that is certainly going to enhance our confidence."
Maloney's confidence is already sky-high as he looks ahead to Saturday with the pride of Queensland.
"I am a lot more confident than I was going into the (Caulfield) Guineas because I know he's come on mentally and physically," Maloney said.
"He's conserving his energy a lot better than he used to and that is going to hold him in good stead going to the mile for the second time.
"He's fit and he's ready to go.
"Obviously it's a great bunch of three-year-olds this year and it is not just a two-horse race like a few people think and hopefully we can draw soft and I can give him every chance.
"He's ticked over nicely from the C.S. Hayes. All the boxes are ticked and we're looking forward to Saturday.
"To be honest, at the 200-metre mark, I thought he (Catalyst) got on level terms if not in front of me and I thought he might have had me at that stage.
"But Al just dropped another gear and true to his name, he didn't let him go past."